Former Trion Worlds COO: “AAA Style of Development of Broken”

Approaching the point of having to make blockbusters to sustain entire ecosystem.

Posted By | On 23rd, May. 2013 Under Article, News


Between crowd-funding, free to play, indie development and mobile games, you’d think there wouldn’t be much room left for big-budget blockbusters. Nonetheless, games like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, not to mention Battlefield and Grand Theft Auto, continue to sell like gangbusters, with the publishers raking in the benefits.

The number of A-list and AA-list titles over the years has dwindled though, with only the most premium of the AAA games remaining.

With the developer recently coming off a wave of lay-offs, former Trion Worlds CCO and Redwood studio general manager Scott Hartsman (who left the studio back in January) recently stated to Massively that, “I think what’s become broken is the traditional AAA style of development and distribution, MMO or otherwise.

“We’re approaching the point at which AAA projects need to be blockbusters just to sustain everyone in the ecosystem: the developer, the publisher, the manufacturing and physical goods cost, the distributor, the retailer, and in some cases, the platform/console owner. ”

“The movie model worked when companies could absorb missteps and teams could hopefully learn from their mistakes to fight another day.

“As the absolute costs go up, fewer and fewer companies are capable of doing so. That’s what’s broken. When it comes to who pays the piper in that list a couple sentences ago, it tends to get paid left-to-right, beginning with the developer.”

Of course, there are plenty of high level developers who prefer to not be straddled with that mode of development. Brian Fargo, Chris Roberts, Tim Schafer and, heck, even Peter Molyneux are quickly turning to methods like crowd-funding to make the games they want to make, for gamers who want to play them.

“More product creators realize that, and more are choosing to step out of that ecosystem entirely. Stepping away gets easier every day in a world that now contains things to help you operate independently at a far lower cost, faster than ever before, from funding to accelerating your development, helping you host, helping you bill, helping you distribute, helping you analyze, and so on.”

AAA blockbusters will still have a place in this world though, with Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Grand Theft Auto V and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag all releasing this year.


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